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Swedish boardrooms 'full of clones': report

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Swedish boardrooms 'full of clones': report
Lego figures of Star Wars clone troopers. File photo: HJ Media Studios
12:42 CET+01:00
The boardrooms of Swedish companies suffer from a serious lack of diversity, with the vast majority consisting of men of the same background, class, network and even alma mater, a new report published on Monday has shown.

“Recruitment has to become more professional, we have to see diversity as a competitive advantage and stop being scared of the unfamiliar,” Rebecca Lucander at the Albright Foundation, which published the report, told The Local.

The report, entitled “Lika barn leka bäst", a Swedish expression which equates to “Birds of a feather flock together”, shows that the boards of companies listed on the Swedish stock exchange are carbon copies of each other in terms of gender, skills, experience, contact networks and academic backgrounds.

The Albright report shows that only 15 percent of board members in Swedish companies aren't born and raised in Sweden, something that Lucander argued could mean that, as a small export-orientated country operating in a globalized world, Sweden is at risk of falling behind.

“We can’t continue like this. We need to have an inclusive culture not one that excludes difference and doesn’t capitalize on the competence that is out there,” she said.

Larger Swedish companies fare better with regards to international boardroom members. The report from 2013 shows that some 42 percent of the board members of OMX 30 firms (an index of the largest Swedish stock market listed firms) were born outside of Sweden, according to a report published by global consultancy firm Russell Reynolds Associates in 2013.

“Larger companies tend to do better on this issue,” Lucander said.

“Our report covers all companies on the OMX exchange and that shows that of the 15 percent that are born outside of Sweden, the vast majority are from other Nordic countries or English-speaking countries, there are only a handful with another background.”

An Albright report from March 2013 showed that, at the beginning of the year, there were 1,007 men sharing 1,292 positions on the boards of Swedish stock market listed companies. In contrast there were 264 women sharing 270 positions.

The report showed that there were more board members named Johan, and as many named Anders, as there were women.

The relatively few women that have made it into Swedish boardrooms tend to be paid less, sit on the  boards of smaller companies, and aside from their gender, they are often drawn from the same set of criteria.

“Gender is one of the parameters we have looked at. What we see is that the companies are not following their own (corporate governance) codes. Most don’t even seek to explain,” Lucander said.

Businessman, financier, and Albright board member Sven Hagströmer argued that the situation is unsustainable.

“It’s really bad if everyone is the same as everyone else. There are just a load of clones sitting in boardrooms today,” he said to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily on Monday.

Despite the slow progress of change and conformity in the make up of Swedish boardrooms, Lucander argued that Sweden should not follow Norway’s example and pass legislation requiring quotas.

“This is an ownership and leadership issue. Recruitment has to become more professional and firms need to use external partners. Firms have to ask themselves ‘what competence do we need’, ‘what are we lacking’. Then if they don’t find it in the usual places, look elsewhere," she said.

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